Kenya determined to repatriate Somali refugees in northern camp

Kenyan Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery [front] addresses the press at Harambee House in Nairobi. Joseph Nkaissery said that the decision to close down the world's largest refugee camp at Dadaab would not change as it harbours terrorists. XINHUA PHOTO - JOHN OKONYO

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The Kenyan government has set aside 10 million U.S. dollars for the repatriation of all Somali refugees in Dadaab camp in northeast region.

Interior Ministry Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaisserry told journalists in Nairobi that the exercise should be complete by the end of the year.

“To kick start the repatriation process and subsequent closure of the Dadaab refugee complex, the government has availed with immediate 10 million dollars,” Nkaisserry said.

The government has also established a taskforce on repatriation of refugees whose mandate will be to oversee, manage and expedite the repatriation and closure of the Dadaab camp that hosts approximately 330,000 refugees.

The taskforce should present its report by or before May 31 and thereafter the government will be putting out a timetable for the execution of the repatriation process.

The repatriation exercise will only affect refugees residing at Dadaab camps and not the 190,000 refugees at Kakuma camp.

Nkaisserry said that the decision to close the camp was arrived at in November 2013, when Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR signed tripartite Agreement setting grounds for repatriation of Somali refugees.

He noted that there has been very slow progress on the implementation of the agreement and decried lack of commitment by the international community to the repatriation bid.

“So the decision has been made by the government reflecting the fact that the camps have become hosting grounds for Al-Shabaab as well as centres of smuggling and contraband trade besides being enablers of illicit weapons proliferation,” he added.

The CS said that in light of the changing landscape of global terrorism with new terrorists entities seeking to root themselves in our region, it would be inexcusable for the government to overlook its primary constitutional responsibility to protect her citizens and their property.

He noted that several large scale attacks including the Westgate shopping mall, Garissa University and the Lamu attack were planned and deployed from Dadaab refugee camp by transnational terrorists groups.

The government official said that as a result of insecurity created by existence of refugee camps, Kenya suffers the brunt of negative consequences such as travel advisories and poor humanitarian rating with obvious negative consequences to the economy.

“Some of these attacks were aimed at the interest of our international partners yet Kenya continues to bear the brunt of these attacks on their behalf with negligible support from them,” he said.

According to the interior ministry, refugees are not permanent settlements and yet this seems to be what refugee camps in Kenya have been turned into.

“Refugees camps are supposed to be a temporary humanitarian remedy awaiting stabilization of their countries of origin,” Nkaisserry said. The CS said that Kenya will not be the first country to send back refugees.

“Rich, prosperous and democratic countries in Europe are also turning away refugees from Syria,” he added.

Earlier, Principal Secretary in the ministry of Intrior Dr. Karanja Kibicho said all refugees in the Dadaab camp will be repatriated to Somalia by May next year despite calls against the move.

Kibicho said the first batch of the refugees will have been moved by November, noting that Kakuma camp which mainly hosts refugees from South Sudan will not be affected, as it “does not pose any threat.”

Kibicho said it is only Dadaab camp that has remained a “source of headache” for Kenya; the camp has a terror cell and “thriving illicit trade.”

“We are assuring the world that there will be no Dadaab refugees by May. This is an undertaking we are making as a government,” he said.

He said the government has put in place plans to make sure those targeted do not “escape” from the camps to neighbouring counties.

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